Renewable energy bills fail in Maryland House committee

Already in 2018 a slew of bills to expand and increase state-level renewable energy mandates has been filed across the nation. However, despite the expiration of Maryland’s current policy only two years from now, a committee in the state’s House of Delegates have blocked plans to increase Maryland’s renewable energy ambition.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2018, known as HB 1453, was one of two bills to increase the state’s renewable energy mandate that were withdrawn last Wednesday. This less audacious of the two bills was voted down unanimously in the House Economic Matters Committee. The bill would have raised the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50% renewable energy by 2030. It also included a 14.5% carve-out for solar by 2028, one of the most ambitious solar mandates proposed to date.

This follows on a win for renewable energy last year, when the state’s Senate overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of a 2016 bill to raise Maryland’s RPS to 25% by 2020. HB 1453 would have further increased the 2020 mandate from 25 to 28% for all renewables and from 2.5 to 6% for solar. Another benefit of the bill would have been to commission a study of the costs and benefits of a 100% RPS in the state.

This 100% mandate was enshrined in the other RPS bill shot down last Wednesday. That bill, HB 878, was voted for withdrawal by the same committee, 21-1. This more ambitious bill would have required the state’s electricity to be fully renewable by 2035. HB 878 would also have created a megawatt block program, similar to the programs in California and New York, to be administered by the state’s Public Service Commission.

The first bill would have put the state (which has already been increasing its solar presence steadily, in the market) in line with other progressive states such as New York and California in setting a 50%-by-2030 requirement. The latter bill, with a whopping 100% mandate, would have put the state ahead of all others—Hawaii is the only state that currently has such a target, and it plans to reach 100% renewable energy in 2045.

HB 1453 was supported by many in the solar community. The bill was cited by MDV-SEIA as, in association with another bill, SB 732, potentially able to bring in more than $11 billion of investment to build 6.5 GW of solar power in the state while creating 20,000 jobs.

HB 1453 appeared to have strong support, including the House Majority Leader and a wide coalition representing faith groups, environmental organizations, unions and civic society. Proponents of the bill still hope to pass it next year, as it is seen as an important election issue this year.